Depression affects many people in different ways and can have life-changing implications. According to recent data, about 10% of adults in Australia have depression or feelings of depression. In this regard, depression can be defined as a mood disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest. The condition can diminish an individual’s ability to form and sustain healthy relationships and function optimally.
Evidence shows that therapy and treatment can help relieve the symptoms of depression. However, recent studies have started to focus on the impact of lifestyle habits like exercise, diet, and sleep on depression. According to findings, healthy habits can help you cope with depression.
Of course, there is no specific diet than automatically relieves the symptoms of depression. However, preferring certain food types and lowering your consumption of others can help manage some symptoms. This article focuses on the role of nutrition in coping with depression.
What Is the Nature of the Relationship Between Food and Mental Health?
Over the past few decades, dietary habits have changed considerably. Today there is a trend to move away from fibre and complex carbohydrates toward saturated fats and processed foods. Such trends arouse concern since the evidence shows a correlation between diet and mental health outcomes. In other words, poor dietary habits are more likely to result in poorer mental health outcomes.
Researchers have found links between the meals we consume and our general feelings. For instance, eating regularly stops your blood sugar from dropping. A decline in sugar levels is associated with a bad temper and feelings of fatigue.
Another way that food affects mood is through hydration. According to research, drinking enough water affects people’s energy levels and improves their ability to focus during tasks. The point here is that even small dietary changes can have profound benefits for your mental health. Find a therapist to help you with a holistic approach to coping with depression.
Why Is Diet a Factor in Depression
Recent data shows that depression has increased by 10% in Australia over the past two years. Depression can result in many life-limiting symptoms. For instance, older adults may experience challenges relating to severe memory loss. The feelings of overwhelming sadness and guilt can interfere with a person’s daily functioning. Experts also indicate that depression is a significant factor in suicide ideation.
Lifestyle habits like diet, when developed at an early age, can help reduce the chances of depression. Experts also indicate that dietary intervention offers a viable tool to shape an apparent contributor to depression. Knowing which foods help fight depression and which ones contribute to the mental health disorder is crucial when formulating interventions.
Those who include fibre, fruits, and vegetables also report higher self-efficacy and optimism. On the other hand, a poor quality diet is one of the risk factors for most common mental health problems, including depression.
Can Some Foods Increase Your Risk of Depression?
While a healthy diet boosts mood and helps cope with depression, certain foods can negatively affect your mental and physical health. The point is that a dietary pattern comprising processed meat, refined grains, trans-fats, sweets, sugary drinks, and caffeine can increase your risk of depression.
One argument that has persisted for years is that being depressed causes some people to turn to unhealthy foods. This argument points to the complex relationship between food and mental health.
While it is true that being depressed can make people assume that sugary drinks and caffeine will lift them, this isn’t always the case. You need to avoid coffee since it interferes with your sleep and makes you feel nervous and jittery. You also need to eliminate processed foods, diets rich in trans fats, and fast foods.
Most of these unhealthy foods interfere with your gut’s microbiome, resulting in gut inflammation and dysbiosis. The effects of these unhealthy foods may not be apparent immediately. However, over time, they can affect your mood.
Here are foods you need to get rid of if you want to avoid depression:
- Fast foods like fried chicken and French fries;
- Energy drinks and coffee;
- Condiments like ketchup;
- Sweetened foods and beverages;
- Processed meats like sausage and bacon;
- Dairy products containing high-fat content.
Which Foods Help You Cope With Depression?
Generally, eating healthy foods benefits your mental and physical health. According to recent studies, respondents who adhere to healthy diets comprising fibres, fruits, olive oil, fish, lean meat, vegetables, nuts, and fruits report decreased symptoms of depression.
So, how does a healthy diet improve mental health outcomes? According to studies, certain nutrients affect how our gut links to our brain. There is also a link between the brain and the microbiome in the gut. Certain bacteria in the gut increase a person’s risk of depression.
The secret to healthy dietary habits is finding a balance. It would help if you were consistent in following the right nutritional strategies. Of course, diet alone is not enough when managing depression. You need to take a holistic approach that includes exercise, mindfulness, sufficient sleep, and adequate hydration.
Additional Lifestyle Changes for Combatting Depression
Depression is a serious mental health disorder with implications for wellness and life outcomes. Healthy eating can have many benefits. While diet helps prevent and manage depression, it only works as one factor in a holistic approach. Sustainable change for optimal mental health outcomes comes from making consistent changes in your diet and lifestyle.
In addition to eating healthy food, you need to work on your social support network. Strong social support helps with building resilience and dealing with life’s challenges. Knowing that you have people to support you can help you cope with depression.
Other lifestyle changes that can help with managing depression include:
- Regular physical activity — Taking up exercise helps improve mood and overall health;
- Improved sleep hygiene — Quality and sufficient sleep are linked to enhanced mood;
- Reduced alcohol intake — Excessive alcohol consumption can leave you feeling more depressed.
Healthy eating helps you cope with depression, while unhealthy foods increase your risk of becoming depressed. Experts recommend a holistic approach to depression management, including mindfulness, healthy dieting, proper sleep hygiene, and regular physical activity. Most importantly, it would help if you considered getting guidance on nutrition from a certified therapist.